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"Gravity" Review

By Adam Ebert
On October 16, 2013

Alfonso Cuaron's latest film also stands as his most universal. The director's work has dealt recently with teen angst in Y Tu Mama Tambien and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as well as the future of humanity in Children of Men. With Gravity, he explores themes that are perhaps even wider, yet at the same time, incredibly intimate. He accomplishes this all the while setting it in the endless landscape of space.

Thematically, the film demonstrates human beings enduring through near-death experiences as well as the fight and wonder felt in regards to the terror and amazement of space.

The magnitudes of the film's technical achievements, along with performances from two of the industry's most renowned actors, create an experience that allows unprecedented realism and intimacy. Back story and character are expressed naturally, allowing lightness and ease of empathy without the burden of flashback or heavy exposition. Right from the opening shot, Cuaron gets right into the thick of his narrative, creating a plot that is both streamlined and powerful. In not lingering on possibly redundant characterization, Cuaron allows the audience to project themselves onto the narrative situations his leads find themselves in, time after time.

The astronaut characters featured within the film encounter constant uncertainty of survival, threated by the relentless and unforgiving environment of space. In their endurance through continual near-death experiences, the director expresses the strength of human nature through his characters, particularly Sandra Bullock's Dr. Ryan Stone. Bullock's character especially demonstrates an unyielding penchant for survival possessed by the human soul. While the film boasts two leads, it is ultimately Stone's narrative that the audience follows and connects with. An incredibly strong character and a fearless performance are what create the film's foundation, often outshining the massive technical aspects.

Expanding from the success of Bullock's character, Cuaron also creates a cinematic experience that is encompassing, engrossing, and terrifying. Through precise cinematography and an obsessive attention to detail, he brings his audience directly into the infinite vacuum of space. Simultaneously beautiful and terrifying, the director pulls no punches in his portrayal of life outside Earth's atmosphere. In setting his narrative in such an environment, Cuaron is allowed rich opportunities when it comes to stakes, emotions, suspense, and most importantly, character. The director builds upon these opportunities to great effect, crafting a film experience that utilizes the unique format of cinema. In combining a precise selection of elements, he has created a film that attacks its audience from many angles, yet concurrently remains focused and universal to the human conditions.

Gravity is a film that excites and terrifies. Even as it does these very things, it ultimately speaks to who we are as human beings, both on an intimate level and a vast scale.


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